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Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson White House Staff Photographer, Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library
[JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT] Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson White House Staff Photographer, Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library

The documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President will premiere on television on CNN on Sunday, January 3. During his political career and following his presidency, the 39th President of the United States formed lifelong bonds with artists Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Rosanne Cash, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Nile Rodgers, and many, many others. Director Mary Wharton’s engaging film explores how President Carter’s deep love of all forms of music has been both a feature and an asset for his storied life and career.

As he ran for president, Carter’s long-standing support from popular music artists dating from before his gubernatorial campaign gave the lesser-known underdog a difference-making boost in the primaries that carried through to his win in November. Once Carter became president, musicians were also frequent guests at the White House, adding fun and, often, a point of connection for political allies, foes, and foreign leaders.

Director Mary Wharton and producer Chris Farrell commented, “We believe CNN viewers will enjoy our film as a nostalgic journey that touches on issues still facing our country today. “Rock & Roll President” is a study in courage and compassion, and we tried to convey President Carter’s innate optimism that we hope will resonate with our fellow Americans as we look ahead toward 2021. We share this film with families that we also hope will find a reason to come together in appreciation for the great American values that President Jimmy Carter embodies: Truth, Justice…. and Rock & Roll.”

A wide-ranging, often poignant interview with the Nobel Prize winner and former president, Jimmy Carter at his home in Plains, Georgia, serves as the spine of the film. Punctuated with archival footage, the film examines Carter’s biography within the context of what at the time seemed to be the dawning of a new age of race and gender relations and human rights.

Carter’s love of music seemed to augment his natural abilities to relate to people of all ages, races, and cultures. Intimate contemporary interviews with Madeleine Albright, Willie Nelson, Chip Carter, Bono, Chuck Leavell, Andrew Young, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and more, describe their relationships with the former president, his sense of humor, his innate compassion, and his inspiring commitment to service. The film also features footage of era-defining live performances by Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, and many more.

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President was an official selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. President Carter greeted the virtual audience by phone following a special screening of the film he has described as “entertaining” and “emotional” at the 2020 AFI DOCS Film Festival.

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